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Doing the numbers

Last week the Publishers' Association revealed figures about UK book sales that showed a continuing encouraging trend, with a 5 per cent rise on the previous year. And non-fiction led the way in the consumer sector, generating £1.1bn, with fiction achieving £733m.

I think we've all noted how much we've been enjoying non-fiction titles in recent years. The quality of the writing, the production levels of the books and the range of subject matters have often left us better informed, hopeful and inspired to find out more about a particular topic. I hope that my non-fiction recommendations each week have helped you discover some pleasant surprises.

This weekend I attended the Aldeburgh Literary Festival and I came away feeling energised and delighted by the quality of the presentations by the authors, and fascinated by the information they shared - about subjects I knew nothing about beforehand. It means I've got additions to my reading piles, of course, but it's so exciting to have new worlds opened up. If you weren't able to attend, tickets to all the weekend's sessions are now available online here.

But do think about making the most of the events which are coming up in the next few weeks. It's lovely to have a full programme of festivals again.

There is a special Jubilee Celebration Week of talks and performances coming up in Southwold and I will be at the Arts Centre speaking to Stewart Ross about his new book 'Queen Elizabeth II for Dummies' on the evening of Wednesday 1 June. Later in the month, the Felixstowe Book Festival this year spans two sites with its range of author talks. There'll be more details about these festivals in the coming weeks, but look up the programmes and book ahead to avoid missing out!

Thank you for reading.

Managing Expectations
by Minnie Driver

Now I'm not one for celebrity memoirs, as a rule, but occasionally I'm interested to see what somebody-I've-heard-of has written about themselves.

Actress Minnie Driver has enjoyed international success but has always been keen to acknowledge her ordinary British background. She hasn't seemed to court publicity for its own sake and there's nothing starry about the front cover.

In this account, which effectively provides snapshots from her life, she writes in a very personal, intimate, unpretentious way, taking us back to her school days, her struggles with her 'big hair', her hopes to become an actress, the struggles and the achievements.

She tells us about being a solo mum, about the threat of losing her home in a wildfire, and a family illness, as well as being introduced to Al Pacino and living in Malibu.

It's written almost as a collection of essays and they're all similar in being warm and real and ultimately entertaining and uplifting. It's a refreshing and very enjoyable read.

For recommended non-fiction titles, take a look here.
There Once is a Queen
by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Michael Foreman

I'm sure we're going to be inundated with Jubilee books this year, but this is a beautifully produced gift for any family from the master storyteller Michael Morpurgo with stunning watercolour illustrations from Michael Foreman.

It reads as a rather special and particularly personal record of the Queen's life and work, told simply but powerfully and accompanied with wonderful images.

It begins with a little girl, a princess, planting an oak tree with her father. We learn of her experience of the war, her marriage and then how, as a young woman she becomes Queen of England, ruling for 70 years. It touches on some of the events in that time, the triumphs and the tribulations, but ultimately it celebrates all that Elizabeth has contributed to the nation and the world.

There is humour but also reverence and poignancy. It is a story that comes from the heart, and it's a book that makes a beautful keepsake.

Read about more recommended children's books here.

Browsers Bookshop Book Group
at St John's Hall, Woodbridge

Monday 30 May 8pm 
talking about...

Still Life
by Sarah Winman

Described as "uplifting... and full of unforgettable characters, 'Still Life' is a novel about beauty, love, family and friendship".
What will we think of it?

It's a long month so there's plenty of time to buy your copy from Browsers Bookshop and read along. Details about how to join in the discussion will be available nearer the time.
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